During a Dewan Rakyat sitting on 6 June 2023, the opposition bloc comprising politicians from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition unanimously and vehemently protested the Auditor-General’s Report 2021 Series 2 (AG’s Report) being debated in Parliament. While Dewan Rakyat Speaker Johari Abdul moved forward with the motion to allow the report to be debated, none of the opposition politicians were present at the Dewan Rakyat for the debate, in a shameful display of irresponsibility. The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) condemns the actions of politicians to stifle discussion of a report instrumental in highlighting potential wastages and leaks in government expenditure, as well as reiterates its stance that the Auditor-General’s Reports must be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and debate.
The actions of PN politicians in completely being opposed to the debating of the AG Report arouses suspicion – the report would cover expenses made during PN’s time in government and would reveal any possible financial mismanagement or leakages under their leadership. Suspicions of financial mismanagement by PN have become much more substantiated since the unity government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) took office in November 2022 – allegations and investigations into Bersatu’s misappropriation of millions of ringgit intended for COVID-19 financial aid as well as PAS’ political funding by way of gambling revenue have emerged. These matters are under active investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), with multiple arrests having been made in connection to these allegations, proving that they are more than just rumours and hence must be looked into further.
The disproportionately exaggerated reaction by PN politicians indicates that their time in office could have been marked by instances of corruption and self-enrichment, exacerbated by the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic had essentially provided an avenue for politicians to use government funds for ostensibly “emergency procurement”. It is disappointing but also telling that PN politicians, despite being elected officials, refuse to be answerable in any way to Parliament and by extension, the Malaysians who elected them into power.
A part of Speaker Johari’s rationale in allowing the debate to take place was also that Mas Ermieyati, Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), was present, as were other members of the PAC as well. Their refusal to participate in the debate, even within their capacities as members of the PAC clearly demonstrates their willingness to shirk their duties by prioritising party politics above matters of public interest.
On the issue of the PAC, Takiyuddin Hassan was of the opinion that the report had been thoroughly vetted by the PAC and further debate would only waste the Dewan Rakyat’s time. This is a non-issue that can easily be overcome by selecting only the most egregious and glaring examples of financial mismanagement that would warrant debate in the Dewan Rakyat due to its gravity. However, Mas Ermieyati said the report fell under the purview of the committee, and not Parliament – she added that the Dewan Rakyat should be debating reports produced by the PAC on the matter instead of those directly from the Auditor-General’s office. However, this raises a key question: why was the PN bloc so opposed to debating the Auditor-General’s report when the PAC had already vetted it itself under the leadership of PAC Chair Mas Ermieyati?
Additionally, Mas Ermieyati also added that the government would be better off heeding a call for PAC sessions to be made public, as they are currently all private. In response to these statements, C4 Center would like to remind the opposition that increased transparency into institutional mechanisms where it concerns public interest is paramount in advancing good governance. The PAC, while having the benefit of greater independence as it is governed by Parliament, still produces reports which are largely not publicised.
As the opposition bloc, PN is supposed to be bound by a duty to ensure that governance, especially in the government’s management and record-keeping of finances is up to par. It is concerning that PN’s priorities seem to lie in manoeuvring around oversight mechanisms and attempting to minimise the involvement of Parliament and democratically elected officials in the scrutiny of government expenditure. It is also worth noting that since the fracas in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, representatives from PN have provided a multitude of reasons as to why they refused to participate in the debate – PN is very clearly grasping at straws, using as many excuses as they can to conceal the fact that they simply did not wish to publicly confront the findings laid out in the AG’s Report.
With all that has been said, C4 Center urges the following:
- The government must amend the standing orders to formalise the debate of the AG’s Reports as part of Dewan Rakyat sittings;
- The government must also make all PAC sessions publicly available and accessible for viewing;
- Parliament must re-table the motion of debating the AG’s Report, and Perikatan Nasional politicians including former Ministers must be in attendance to justify or provide explanations for the major findings of the report in regard to their past ministry.
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Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center)
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